Kiss or avoid? Midterm dilemma for Democrats as Biden ratings plunge | Joe Biden

OWith a handshake and a brief hug, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger welcomed Joe Biden to her Virginia district last Thursday. The event was a chance to highlight the administration’s plans to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, but it was also a chance for the US president to promote his party members ahead of the mid-elections. mandate in November.

“In every chapter of her career, in every chapter, she has always been about one thing: service,” the president said of Spanberger, a Democrat whose re-election race is at the forefront of the battle to win. House control.

It’s a crucial effort: Democrats already face a punitive political climate as they defend their wafer-thin majorities in the House and Senate. The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and a president’s popularity is a key variable in determining the magnitude of those losses.

Widespread economic discontent and frustration over the pandemic have battered Biden’s approval ratings, which now hover just above 40%, according to public polls. Highlighting the profound challenges facing his presidency, Biden arrived in Culpepper, Va., hours after the release of another grim economic report, showing inflation up 7.5% over the past year, its highest level in 40 years.

The current reality poses a dilemma for some Democrats: embrace an unpopular president or run away from their party leader.

Republicans called the pick a “Biden burden,” targeting members who appear with him, like Spanberger, for supporting the president while blaming those who don’t for avoiding him.

Virtually a midterm predicament for the ruling party, the question of whether to put the light of day between vulnerable candidates and Biden comes as he prepares to ramp up his travels outside of Washington. This week, he will travel to Ohio, where Democrats are trying to overturn a Senate seat.

Some Democrats hope the personal appeal of Biden — known as the quintessential retail politician — will help them sell their agenda and improve his party’s prospects later this year.

“If you’re trying to walk away from Biden, you’re doing it wrong,” said Lanae Erickson, senior vice president of moderate think tank Third Way.

Many of the most fiercely contested House races are rooted in the suburbs, which fueled party victories during the Trump years but where Democrats have struggled recently.

Erickson said Biden remains the party’s best spokesperson. A visit from him, she continued, telegraphs swing voters that “this is Joe Biden’s party, this is not Bernie Sanders’ party, and this is what we offer when he s is about November”.

In recent weeks, some Democrats have skipped events where Biden speaks, giving water to Republicans eager to amplify the narrative that they are avoiding him.

On a trip to Georgia, where Biden gave a major speech on suffrage, gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a prominent suffrage advocate, was not present, citing a scheduling conflict .

In Pittsburgh last month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the likely Democratic nominee in the gubernatorial race, did not attend the president’s infrastructure speech – also due to an apparent scheduling conflict. .

Both insisted at the time that politics had no bearing on their decision. Abrams and Biden have flatly rejected any notion of friction.

But there are other signs that Democrats in tough races are trying to put daylight between them and the president. When asked if he would accept help from Biden, Beto O’Rourke, who is running to become Texas’ next governor, told reporters he was “not interested” in receiving help from Biden. campaign from anyone outside of his state. Other Democrats wavered, offering neither a resounding yes nor a definite no.

An analysis by Axios, using data compiled by Quorum, found that many at-risk Democrats have avoided any mention of the president on their official campaign accounts since Sept. 1, when Biden’s endorsement began a precipitous decline after the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

Still, several Democrats in key races have hosted the president. Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, who faces an uphill fight for re-election, appeared alongside Biden during his voting rights speech. Congressman Conor Lamb, a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate, was in the audience in Pittsburgh when Biden incorrectly referred to him as a “senator.”

In December, Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids flew with Biden on Air Force One in her district, where they touted the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure law. And he also appeared at an event with Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin to push for passage of the law.

Presidential visits often stimulate fundraising and attract media attention. A Biden appearance could help amplify the Democrats’ economic agenda while serving to allay concerns about his age, said Mike Noble, a pollster in Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly is defending his seat in one of the cycle’s flagship races. .

A recent survey of Arizona voters, conducted by OH Predictive Insights, Noble’s polling and research firm, found the economy has overtaken immigration as the top priority for voters in the state. border. At the same time, approval of his handling of the economy and the pandemic had fallen sharply.

“You can be reactive or proactive,” he said. “And we find that being reactive hasn’t been good for his numbers here.”

At a press conference last month, Biden said he planned to be more “deeply involved” in the midterm elections. And although he has expressed a desire to travel on behalf of his party, it is highly unlikely that Biden will show up anywhere he is not wanted.

“We will raise a lot of money. We’re going to be there to make sure we help all of these applicants,” he said. “And dozens of them have already asked me to come and campaign with them, to come out and make the point in plain language about what we’ve done, what we want to do and why we think it’s happening. is important.”

But it’s not easy.

Joe Biden with Abigail Spanberger in Virginia this week. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Once popular with a wide range of voters, Biden’s appeal among conservatives has all but disappeared as he tries to pull a divided America out of a pandemic and economic crisis. His appearances almost always draw protesters, often waving vulgar signs as Donald Trump continues to spread lies about the 2020 election results.

Alarming Democrats are his waning support among critical elements of the party’s coalition, including black, Latino, young and female voters deflated by his failure to embrace a bold agenda and disappointment that life remains far from ‘normal’ “more than a year after his presidency.

The collapse of legislative efforts to protect the right to vote and enact police reform should worry Democrats more than an appearance by the president, said Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Atlanta-based advocacy group Black Voters Matter.

In a recent poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, nearly a quarter of Georgia voters named voting and elections their top priority, the highest percentage of any issue, including the economy. Concern was particularly pronounced among black voters, whose disapproval of the president rose from just 8% in May to 36% in January. Even a marginal drop in black turnout in November could spell trouble for Democrats in November, especially in Georgia, where Biden won by less than half a percentage point.

“We didn’t vote for him because we thought he was a great speaker or a great motivator,” Albright said. “We thought he would be able to govern and help pass laws.”

Four years ago, voter fury at Trump propelled Spanberger to victory over Republican David Brat, an arch-conservative. Spanberger has been a top Republican target ever since, but she held her own in 2020, beating her Republican challenger by less than two percentage points.

This year, she will be running in a neighborhood that has been radically redesigned and now leans more strongly in her favor. While Biden narrowly won his district in 2020, he is predicted to have won the new district by seven points.

But the widening margin is little comfort after the Democrats’ resounding defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial election last year, when Republican Glenn Youngkin swept to victory in the state, which Biden won by 10 percentage points in 2020.

The shocking losses in Virginia, which would have reliably turned blue, came amid Democratic infighting over the size and scope of the president’s national agenda, which remains stuck in the Senate.

In a post-election interview, Spanberger suggested that Biden had overshot his broad national agenda, telling the New York Times that “nobody elected him FDR; they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.

After the interview was published, Spanberger said he received a call from the White House. When Biden came to the phone, he teased, “Hello, Abigail. It’s President Roosevelt.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Thursday’s event in Culpepper, Spanberger said she welcomed the opportunity for Biden to hear directly from her constituents, like Joshua Davis, a 12-year-old boy with diabetes who presented.

“I have the opportunity to literally give my constituents the opportunity to tell their stories to the President of the United States,” she said. “It is, for me, the pinnacle of what representation can and should be.”

At this point in the cycle, Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the choice to appear with the president in a part of the state he won to discuss part of his hugely popular program was a “no-brainer” for Spanberger. He warned that a lot could change before November.

“But if it was October, with that kind of audience,” Sabato said, “I think she would have a scheduling conflict.”

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